Ginger or Mary Ann? It’s enough to give anybody a headache. Poor Gilligan never had a chance.

Ginger or Mary Ann?  It’s the kind of pop culture problem that could give Sigmund Freud a headache.

When Gilligan’s Island premiered on television fifty years ago, the critics quickly dismissed it, stating that it was one of the worst television shows ever made.  Little did they realize that it would become not only a beloved television staple, but would entertain generations of kids for decades to come.  Part of the success of the show was creator Sherwood Schwartz’s creation of some of televisions most beloved characters – Gilligan, the Skipper and the other stranded castaways.  But they were more than just an eccentric gathering of odd ball characters.  They were broad stereotypes taken from a cross section of society – the fool, the leader, the intellect, the elite, the vamp and the all American girl.  These social archetypes have managed to transcend the years, giving Gilligan’s Island a timeless appeal.  The characters are as relevant today as they were five decades ago.

In the role of Mary Ann Summers on “Gilligan’s Island,” Dawn Wells became a genuine pop culture sex symbol and a cultural archtype for the all American “good” girl.

As genuine pop culture sex symbols, Ginger and Mary Ann, played by Tina Louise and Dawn Wells, became the first crushes for kids watching throughout North America.  The juxtaposition of the two characters were so broad that they became opposite ends of the sexual ying and yang – the good girl/bad girl, the virgin/whore, the girl you bring home to Mom/the girl you don’t.  Perhaps Schwartz didn’t plan it that way, but there was a lot more going on on that Island then maybe met the eye.

But what messages did Ginger and Mary Ann give to girls that grew up on the show?  Well, as Dawn Wells reveals in her new book, What Would Mary Ann Do: A Guide to Life, perhaps today’s society needs a lot more “Mary Ann’s” and a few less “Ginger’s.”

Raised by a single mother is Reno, Nevada, Dawn Wells, a former Ms. America contestant, made her way to Hollywood in the late 1950’s where she appeared on TV programs such as Bonanza, Maverick and 77 Sunset Strip before taking the role of Kansas farm girl Mary Ann Summers on Gilligan’s Island in 1964.  Pretty, bright eyed and enthusiastic, the role made her a cultural icon.

In her new book “What Would Mary Ann Do?: A Guide to Life,” actress Dawn Wells is talking to girls about why they should be a “Mary Ann” instead of a “Ginger.”

Drawing from a combination of personal life events and plain common sense, Dawn Wells uses her famous role as a symbol in her new book to talk to modern girls about values and morals .  As she explains, it’s not about being a “goody two shoes” as much as making good decisions.  While “Gingers” may seem to have more fun, but “Mary Anns” are the ones who get married.

Dawn Wells has been touring North America with her new book and talking to girls from coast to coast, proving that there is still a lot that can be learned from Ginger and Mary Ann.  While on tour she took a moment to talk to me about how her own experiences helped shape this book and how Mary Ann has become a good pop culture role model for girls and women of all ages and generations.

READ FULL INTERVIEW

 

I often find it difficult to create a yearly “best of” list for films because I always feel that I have yet to discover the hidden gems of the year due to the fact that I live in a city where the local cineplex bring in comic book movies, family films and rom-coms until the Oscar nominations come out.  2014 was a year where the films I anticipated the most disappointed me, and too many sequels bogged up the landscape.  However, that didn’t stop a few remarkable films from crossing my radar.  If you don’t see the films you loved the most this year please e-mail me your personal favorites at popcultureaddict@gmail.com so I can preview what you saw and loved.  I still think I have a lot yet to discover from 2014.

PCA MOVIE OF THE YEAR – BOYHOOD

Richard Linkletter’s epic coming of age film, Boyhood, is potentially the most groundbreaking film in decades.  Experimental and highly original, it was an experiment that was doomed to fail but, miraculously, it didn’t. The result is a a beautiful time spanning journey through the life of a broken family unit.  Nothing like this has ever been filmed before.

The many faces of “Boyhood”star Ellar Coltrane from seven to eighteen. Twelve year in the making, “Boyhood” is the most intense coming of age film ever made. Watching the characters grow up before your eyes is incredible.

In 2002 Richard Linkletter began filming Boyhood and for the next twelve years, would bring his cast back together creating a natural time lapse which allows the audience to see the same people age and change within a three hour film.  Of course the most radical change perceived by the audience is that of the film’s young stars, most notably Ellar Coltrane as the film’s protagonist Mason.  Seven years old when the film began, the audience watches him grow and mature to the age of eighteen in front of their very eyes.  As time ebbs and flows through his emotional and physical journey, he is joined by Patricia Arquette as his bright but emotional mother who is prone to making poor relationship decisions, Ethan Hawke as his weekend father who the audience watches grow from loveable slacker to responsible family man, and newcomer Lorelei Linkletter (Richard Linkletter’s daughter), as Mason’s headstrong and often bossy older sister Samantha who, in the same way as Coltrane, ages from nine to twenty in front of the audience.

“Boyhood” isn’t just about the coming of age of one boy, but also how time affects a broken family unit played by (left to right) Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Libby Vallari and Lorelie Linkletter. Lorelie Linkletter also gives a remarkable performance as the audience watches her grow up from seven to twenty through the course of the film.

Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linkletter are incredible actors and it is amazing that Linkletter was able to keep them under the radar for so long.  With Boyhood being the darling of the Golden Globe’s, and with Oscar nominations written all over it, hopefully we’ll see both of the films’ young stars move into other roles within Hollywood.

Just like real life, the story seems to change focus and goes into different directions as time goes on.  Instead of being a story, it is more a character study of a sensitive and artistic boy, as well as his family unit.  The passage of time is the factor that makes the film so unique and is a testament to the creative passion of Linkletter and the devotion of his team.  Twelve years in the making, Boyhood is a triumph and it’s unlikely it could be done as successfully again, although I am sure that many copycat directors are about to try.  A true masterpiece in film, Boyhood is something truly original in an industry that often lacks originally.

OTHER MOVIES WE LIKED

GONE GIRL

Although many may argue that Gone Girl is nothing more than another formula thriller, I’d argue that it is a well pieced cat and mouse mystery filled with suspense, twists, turns, and surprises which, if he were still alive, Alfred Hitchcock would have filled himself.  Ben Affleck plays Nick Dunne, a bar owner in a small town who returns home on his anniversary to find his wife Amy, played by Rosemond Pike, is missing.  A minor celebrity, due to being used as the prototype for the main character in her parent’s popular children’s books, a media frenzy occurs with both the TV news and the police looking at Affleck as being the killer.  As the story of the couple’s past unfolds in flashbacks, Affleck is just smarmy enough to make the audience wonder if, just maybe, he did it.  But a mid-movie twist turns the whole thing on its head, which is preventing me from revealing much of anything at all.  Director David Fincher uses the advent of modern 24 hour news channels and combines it with yellow sensationalist journalism that dates back to William Randloph Heart.  The result goes beyond being a thriller but making the audience reexamine their relationship with news media. Gone Girl has its flaws, but it is one of the strongest thrillers in years and Pike and Affleck are terrific.  In fact, Affleck is so good that you almost thing that maybe….just maybe….he might be able to pull off Batman after all.  Maybe….

THE BABADOOK

This great little Australian horror flick didn’t get a widespread release in North America, but has gained massive popularity due to it being included on so many “Best of 2014” lists, and rightfully so.  Writer/director Jennifer Kent creates a bizarre and truly frightening experience with her horror creation The Babadook.  Essie Davis stars as Amelia, the widowed mother of a troubles autistic boy Samuel, played by Noah Wiseman.  Pushed to the limit of a near nervous breakdown due to both her grief and the alienation that she receives due to her son’s erratic and often bizarre behavior, Amelia discovers a creepy children’s book called The Babadook left in her house.  The story of a “boogeyman” who lives in closets and under beds that come to take away little children, the book terrifies Samuel who begins to obsess about it, claiming that The Babadook is real and in their house.  First disregarding Samuel’s outburst as being part of his overactive imagination, Amelia begins to suspect something supernatural may be in her house after all.  Is there really a Babadook, or is she just going mad due to exhaustion and the demands of her unstable child?  A haunting film, The Babadook is stylishly filmed, especially a terrifying nightmare montage reflective of the style of silent horror director Benjamin Christensen.  Sure to please horror fans, the film adds elements of drama, pathos and its own horror as Amelia descends into madness due to her inability to cope with her own child.  An emotional and terrifying journey, I see sequel written all over this one.

ANNABELLE

For the most part, the American output of horror films was disappointing, with the films being either dull or idiotic.  The exception was John R. Leonetti’s Annabelle.  A prequel to the hit 2013 film The Conjuring, Annabelle tells the origins of Annabelle the haunted doll.  However, while The Conjuring is based on a true story from the case files of Ed and Lorraine Warren, and while Annabelle is a real haunted doll that is owned by the couple, the origins of the doll are unknown.  Thus Leonetti relied on the imagination of Gary Dauberman to flesh on a fictional origin of the doll for this film.  But either fiction or fact, the film works.  Ward Horton and Annabelle Wallis play a young couple, Mia and John, whose home is invaded by Satanic cultists.  Pregnant with their first child, Mia barely survives the attack, but the cultists are killed by police.  However, in their wake, they have left something behind.  A vintage doll that John had bought for Mia which they named Anabelle is acting strangely, as if it now has a mind of its own.  Basic Hollywood popcorn thriller, Annabelle has some truly terrifying moments, and it will make you question ever bringing a doll into your home again.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

Okay.  So everybody that ever saw Guardians of the Galaxy pretty much loves it.  It truly is the action/adventure film of the year.  But let’s be blunt about what’s really impressive about Guardians of the Galaxy.  As a comic books go, Guardians is truly a D list franchise.  Even Stan Lee himself admitted that he wasn’t sure who these characters were.  As someone who has been reading comic for thirty years, I can tell you that I have never read a book with the Guardians of the Galaxy in it.  However, due to expert casting, lovable characters, a witty script, some action, adventure and a lot of fun, Guardians of the Galaxy is now one of the most profitable comic book franchises in the world today.  Starlord, Groot and Rocket Raccoon are now household names and the film eclipsed classic heroes like Captain America, Spider-Man and The X-Men at the box office this summer.  But just because you’re popular doesn’t mean you’re good.  Well, Guardians of the Galaxy is that good.  Look – I am tired of the superhero film genre.  It’s over played, has become dull and repetitive and for the most part they just aren’t good movies.  I don’t want to see another comic book movie.  Truly I don’t.  But with that said, why am I on pins and needles waiting for a Guardians of the Galaxy film?  Because it’s just that good.  Perhaps other directors and producers will learn from Guardians and realize that dark and serious isn’t how you create a successful comic book movie.  You need to add a little element of fun into the mix too.  I am Groot!

Coming in 2015 – Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens

What to Watch for in 2015 – Two words – Star Wars.  With George Lucas handing the reins to JJ Abrams Star Wars fans are finally going to get the sequels that they deserve.  There is no way on God’s green Earth that Abrams can screw the franchise up more than Lucas did with the ill-fated prequels.  With Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford back in the roles of Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, hopefully the bitter taste left in the mouths of fans worldwide can finally be cleansed.  Admit it – you got emotional when you saw the Millennium Falcon in the trailer.  I know I did.  Peanuts returns to the big screen for the first time since the death of Charles Schultz in a new computer animated full length feature.  With the Schultz estate hands on with the project, including Schultz’ son Bryan as one of the writers of the film, this could be a rejuvenation of a beloved comic franchise.  The previews shown thus far are delightful.  The Woman in Black 2 is coming, and it could go either way.  A brand new story based on Susan Hill’s ghostly character, the last film featuring the story was mediocre and lacked the subtlety of the original book, stage play and 1989 teleplay.  But it’s a favorite franchise of mine so it’ll be interesting to see which way it goes.  We’ll have to wait and see.  And speaking of horror franchises, Samara returns in Rings, a prequel to the popular The Ring films.  Little information has been released yet, but The Ring, as well as the original Ringu films from Japan, are amongst my favorites and I can’t wait for the creepy little well girl to return to the big screen.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM PCA

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Although the world came to love him in the role of Ralph Malph on “Happy Days,” Don Most has worn many hats as an entertainer working in television, theater, film and music.

Performance is something that runs through Don Most’s blood.  Throughout the past five decades it is something Don has proved again and again in each step he takes along the pop culture journey.  The world first got to know him as Donny Most in the role of Ralph Malph on the iconic 70’s sit-com Happy Days.  Under his red locks and through his freckled face, Don was the wise cracking member of the Happy Days gang.  One of the most successful television shows of all time, Don had his face on everything from action figures to animated programs where he and Anson “Potsie” Webber played sidekicks to Ron Howard’s character Richie Cunningham and hung out with Henry Winkler’s enigmatic character, The Fonz.  But when Don Most left Happy Days in 1980, marking the end of the classic era of the series, he often found himself sitting in the shadow of Ralph, preventing him from getting the kind of acting roles that he wanted.  As a result, Don Most had to reinvent himself and his career.  Between taking guest starring roles on favorites like Love Boat, CHIP’s, Murder She Wrote and Baywatch, Don turned to voice acting, heater and directing as a way to continue a career in show business.

Still maintaining a strong fan following from his role in “Happy Days,” Don Most has recently turning to music, bringing his revue “Singin’ and Swinging’” to jazz clubs across America as he performs some of the great standards of the American Songbook.

Although still recognized as Ralph Malph today, with time distancing himself from his Happy Days character, Don has been popping back on the pop culture radar again.  Recently taking a reoccurring role on Glee as Jayma Mays’ father, Rusty Pillsbury, Don has made appearances on Bones and Men of a Certain Age and appeared in the independent films Chez Upshaw and Campin’ Buddies.

Now Don is turning another corner in his career by putting his focus in a new surprising venture that has taken fans by surprise.  Don Most has put together his own musical night club act, Singin’ and Swingin’.  Backed his own band and performing some of the great jazz classics from the American song book, Don Most has been taking his act to clubs from New York to LA, singing the songs that he loves and getting a warm reception from audiences.  Catching Don on the road between gigs, Don revealed to me that while we think of him as an actor, he really entered show business through song as a teenager.  Music is still something that has a strong hold on his heart, and now he is bringing the music he loves to his fans.

READ FULL INTERVIEW

One of Canada’s most important bands from the 1990′s, The Tea Party, featuring Jeff Martin, Stuart Chatwood and Jeff Burrows are back with their first new album in a decade.

During the 1990’s rock trio The Tea Party was one of the most important bands in Canada.  Comprised of three friends from Windsor, Ontario – singer/guitarist Jeff Martin, bassist Stuart Chatwood and drummer Jeff Burrows – The Tea Party formed in Toronto in the early 90’s and found national success with Save Me in 1993.  Embraced by discontented and alienated Generation Xer’s who were looking toward Seattle’s grunge scene, The Tea Party combined hard rock with Middle Eastern instruments, creating their own unique sound.  Through seven studio albums, twenty one cross country Canadian tours, and a string of alternative hits such as Sister Awake, Walking Wounded and The River, The Tea Party became a touchstone on the Canadian rock scene for an entire generation of music fans.  However, in 2005 the band disbanded over “creative differences,” and the three members went onto other projects.  Jeff Martin attempted a solo career, Jeff Burrows worked on various music projects while working as a Windsor based rock DJ and Stuart Chatwood composed music for the video game Prince of Persia.

The Tea Party – The Ocean at the End (2014)

But in 2011 The Tea Party reemerged for what was believed to be a brief reunion, and by the end of the summer it was announced that it was such a positive experience that the group planned to stay together.  Now, ten years after the release of their “final” album, The Tea Party has released The Ocean at the End, their first album of new material since their reformation.

Having recently returned from Australia, where they maintain a massive following, and currently promoting the album with a Canadian wide tour, I was able to talk with Stuart Chatwood about the new album and The Tea Party’s return to the studio.  Although much has changed since the 1990’s, The Tea Party has managed to evolve while keeping their unique sound which fans are drawn to.  The result is a great album reminding listeners what well-crafted rock LP is supposed to sound like.

Bassist/keyboardist Stuart Chatwood is back with The Tea Party after a successful side project of writing the music for the video game “Prince of Persia.”

Sam Tweedle:  I’ve spent the last few days listening to The Ocean at the End and just trying to absorb it as a whole.  What was it like to go back into the studio with Jeff Martin and Jeff Burrows and put together new material after such a long hiatus?

Stuart Chatwood:  Well, I think some of it was familiar because it’s the eighth or ninth studio record, and we’ve been in other studios with other artists as well.  But some of it was unique because we’ve grown so much as individuals now, and as you mature you tend to not give a damn about what people think anymore.  When you’re young and in the studio you [say] “Am I playing this vibrato right?  Am I bending this note right?” Now it’s like “I know what I’m doing.  I’m going to play my part.  If we need to fix it later then we’ll address that.”  It just changes the dynamic in the studio.  Takes get done quicker.  Ideas are committed to tape.  When you do things quicker you get to try out new things because there’s time left.  I also think it was good to work with the three band members again because we hadn’t recorded in that manner in quite a while.  We started working with a few other co-producers towards the end in 2004.  So it was nice to have Jeff Martin have the reins again.

Sam:  Let’s talk about the evolution.  Certainly we all evolve over ten years, but when you are listening to this album it clearly sounds like a Tea Party album and not some sort of updated thing.  How are you able to evolve yet still maintain the same sound that your fan base comes to expect from you?

“When we were kids we listened to four Detroit rock stations. Imagine there being four popular rock stations. Howard Stern was in Detroit back then on W4. We had WRIF 101, 98.7, WBAX – you’re just bombarded by five or six hundred songs. It was the pantheon of British hard rock that we grew up on.”

Stuart:  I just think it’s in our system.  It’s in our blood.  We grew up in Windsor, across from Detroit, which is the greatest music city in my opinion.  When we were kids we listened to four Detroit rock stations.  Imagine there being four popular rock stations.  Howard Stern was in Detroit back then on W4.  We had WRIF 101, 98.7, WBAX – you’re just bombarded by five or six hundred songs.  It was the pantheon of British hard rock that we grew up on.  So that’s just in our system to begin with.  Another contributing factor was that Jeff Martin was not allowed to listen to that music until a certain age.  His Dad insisted that he listen to blues, and play blues, only.

Sam:  No kidding?

“one of the goals on this album was to get Jeff Martin back on guitar because, with all his production and side projects, he was playing keyboards and working on vocals with people and he had forgotten what a great guitarist he is. When we were growing up together, and when we were living together in Toronto when the band formed, for six hours a day he would play guitar. “

Stuart:  Yeah.  He was not allowed to listen to Black Sabbath or Deep Purple records in the house.  So before Jeff heard every single track by Led Zeppelin, he heard every single track by B.B. King, Freddie King and Albert King, so it gave him that context.  Just to make that point more clear, there is probably no other city in Canada that has more of a blues influence than Windsor which is surrounded by America.  So that is the benefit of being from Windsor I guess. So that’s in our system and, whether we like it or not, that’s going to come into our music.  I think one of the goals on this album was to get Jeff Martin back on guitar because, with all his production and side projects, he was playing keyboards and working on vocals with people and he had forgotten what a great guitarist he is.  When we were growing up together, and when we were living together in Toronto when the band formed, for six hours a day he would play guitar.  He had a Marshall Stack in our apartment and he’d just crank that thing and put on Led Zeppelin I, play it until the end, then put on Led Zeppelin II, and continue the process.  I would take over and play bass for a while.  Our poor neighbors.  But back then it was just so instantaneous.  He’d here one riff, think about it for a second, and then his hands would be playing it.  We had to get him back to that way of thinking.  It happened on this record.  The solo on [the song] The Ocean at the End is probably some of the best guitar that he’s ever recorded in his career.

Sam:  That song is a real triumph.  It’s like one of those classic rock songs that exceeds radio play timing.

Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull joins The Tea Party for the title track of their latest release, “The Ocean at the End”: “When you think of flutes and rock n’ roll there’s only one guy – Ian Anderson. Thankfully he enjoyed the music, and he’s playing our music on tour.”

Stuart:  It’s our eight and a half minute epic song.  We had Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull perform on that one.  That was great.

Sam:  How did you get Ian involved?

Stuart:  In 1994 we toured England and he showed up at this little pub we were playing in Leicester, England.  Our manger came up to us and said “Ian Anderson, the flute player from Jethro Tull, is at the back bar” and we said “Okay.  Sound check is over!”  We went back and had a couple of pints with him and he told us that it was great and that we were one of the young bands that caught his ear because we had captured the sound of his golden era and we tried to move things a little bit forward.  So getting a compliment like that form his was incredible.  So when we were trying to finish this record we had some mellotron flutes on that song, which is a keyboard instrument, and I wondered how we could humanize it more with some real flutes.  So when you think of flutes and rock n’ roll there’s only one guy – Ian Anderson.  Thankfully he enjoyed the music, and he’s playing our music on tour.  I got an e-mail from someone last night who went and saw Jethro Tull and they play Sister Awake and a lot of our songs between sets.

“There were some outside extremist negative influences on the band towards the end. We were barely friends. Enough water has passed under the bridge now where we can put some things aside and be friends, and be there for each other musically.”

Sam:  Do you guys find that you gel as a unit better now than when you parted ways in 2005?

Stuart:  Yes.  The gelling may be more similar to when we first started the band.  There were some outside extremist negative influences on the band towards the end.  We were barely friends.  Enough water has passed under the bridge now where we can put some things aside and be friends, and be there for each other musically.

Sam:  A lot happens in a decade.  How has the changes in the music scene over a decade effect you?  Have you noticed a change?

“Recorded music is now coming to a close. Thankfully streaming music is picking up. I think systems like this that let people hear our music without paying for it is actually a good thing for us. Our biggest hurdle, especially in the States, is getting people to hear us.”

Stuart:  We’re in a transitory period right now for sure.  How long was sheet music king?  It wasn’t that long.  How long was the 78 king?  Not long.  Recorded music is now coming to a close.  Thankfully streaming music is picking up.  I think systems like this that let people hear our music without paying for it is actually a good thing for us.  Our biggest hurdle, especially in the States, is getting people to hear us.  Any city where we got airplay in the States, like in Seattle, we were big.  We played this place called The Moore Theater, where Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains were playing, because we were being heard on the radio and people liked it.  So the internet has been a very beneficial thing for us.  But also, when we started it was sort of more of a mono culture.  Everyone got into the same things.  Now culture is wide open.  Everything is cool and everything is not cool.  If you relate it to fashion, back in the day it was about what length is your pants or how wide is your cuffs.  Now everything is in.  People are wearing bell bottoms and the next person down the street will wear tight pants.  There is no consensus, which is a good and a bad thing.

Sam:  You talk about the difficulties of breaking in the States, but I know you have a huge following in Australia.  Australia has a real love affair with The Tea Party.  Why is that?

“Well it comes down to exposure. Australia was the first place we went to. We had, within our means, the ability to go back there a few times and it just solidified things. I almost feel that it could have happened in any country. If we had went to Spain first, and then went back to Spain three times on the first record, we’d be big in Spain and we’d be talking about that right now.”

Stuart:  Well it comes down to exposure.  Australia was the first place we went to.  We had, within our means, the ability to go back there a few times and it just solidified things.  I almost feel that it could have happened in any country.  If we had went to Spain first, and then went back to Spain three times on the first record, we’d be big in Spain and we’d be talking about that right now.  With America it’s a little different, and the label we were on, which was EMI, went bankrupt so that first record sunk.  We shipped the second one over for Christmas, or something, and they fired all their rock department.  For Transmission we moved over to Atlantic and our album came out the exact same week with their other act, Stone Temple Pilots, and they are only going to promote one act so we got buried under their weight.  People don’t know all these little behind the scene things.  But Buffalo was the first cities we ever sold out.  We had to add a show in San Antonio, and there’s all these little pockets of America where The Tea Party got played and was very popular.  But it never turned into a national thing like it did in Australia.

Sam:  The Tea Party just came back from Australia.  You were there through October.  What was the reaction from Australia to have The Tea Party together again?

Stuart:  This was unique.  A lot of people came out and wrote reviews of the shows.  Honestly, we go the best press of the band’s career now. This goes for the record too.  We’re getting great press.  I don’t know if tastes have changed or if people don’t hate it as much.  The critic for The Sydney Morning Herald, Australia’s biggest paper, came out to see us for the first time after begging him to come over fifteen tours.  He came back stage and said “Oh, I’m sorry I didn’t come out earlier.  You guys are incredible.  So much power for a three piece.”  He wrote a great story, and ended up doing five stories on us for that paper during the tour.  So I guess he liked us.  People are coming out of the woodwork all of a sudden.  In Europe we get a review like “I’ve been a fan since 1994.  I saw you at this little club.  I’ve been following you ever since.  I’m glad you put out a new record.”  So it’s like an infectious disease.  Once you get it, there’s no cure.

The Tea Party are touring Canada through November and December.  For more information on their tour, The Ocean at the End and their other ongoing projects visit their web-site at http://www.teaparty.com/#tour-section.

 

2Y43r34q_400x400POP CULTURE ADDICT NOTE:  A thanks to Beth Cavanaugh of Indoor Recess for arranging our opportunity to talk with Stuart Chatwood and continuing to introcuing PCA to some of the best musicians in the world.  Its always a pleasure to work with you and I look forward to covering more of your artists.  Check out Indoor Recess’ content and services at http://www.indoorrecess.com/.

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For over seven decades actress June Lockhart has had one of the most varied careers in pop culture.  Finding success in film, television and Broadway, she has appeared in space operas, family melodramas, rural comedies, Universal horror films, MGM musicals, live television, anthology programs, kid shows, animation voice acting, and every single sort of genre of television one can possibly imagine.  However, despite an amazing career with hundreds of credits to her name, fans will always remember her as two of television’s favorite Moms – Ruth Martin on Lassie and Maureen Robinson on Lost in Space.

The daughter of respected actors Gene Lockhart and Kathleen Lockhart, June made her film debut in 1938 when she played her parent’s daughter in A Christmas Carol.  Although choosing to focus on her studies instead of being a Hollywood kid, film roles kept calling and via the guidance of her father she found notable parts in a series of well-remembered films including All This, and Heaven Too, Adam Had Four Songs, Sergeant York, Meet Me in St. Louis and Son of Lassie.  A move to New York in 1947 to star in For Love or Money on Broadway earned her a Tony Award, and she began to appear on live anthology programs during the golden age of television.

Over seven decades June Lockhart has been in everything from Universal horror films to MGM musicals, but hit big on the pop culture radar as matriarch figures “Lassie,” “Lost in Space” and “Petticoat Junction.”

Gaining a reputation as a well-respected character actress, it was during a low point in her life that she replaced Cloris Leachmen in the role of Ruth Martin on the insanely popular family drama Lassie.  The role popularized her in households across North America, and put her on the pop culture radar.

But June would strike pop culture gold when Lassie left the airwaves in 1964 and she changed gears completely and donned a silver space suit to play the youthful mother and wife Maureen Robinson on Irwin Allen’s cult classic Lost in Space.  A psychedelic space opera beloved by generations of fans, Lost in Space ended in 1968, where June took another unlikely journey on the Cannonball Express and moved into Petticoat Junction to replace recently deceased star Bea Benederet as Dr. Janet Craig, the new “motherly figure” at the Shady Rest Hotel.  June would stay with Petticoat Junction until its end in 1970.

Joan Lockhart has become involved with the Los Angeles Lawyers Philharmonic, calling herself their “most vocal groupie” and acting as emcee to their concerts.

Three popular series in a twelve year span sealed her his legacy on television, but June’s television appearances would stretch throughout the decades in such TV favorites as Love, American Style, Marcus Welby, Adam-12, The Hardy Boys, Magnum PI, Falcon Crest, Knots Landing, Quincy, Full House, Babylon 5, Roseanne, The Ren and Stimpy Show, Beverly Hills 90210, The Drew Carey Show, Greys Anatomy and hundreds of other TV programs.

However, in recent years June Lockhart has moved her attention away from acting and has found a new passion working with The Los Angeles Lawyers Philharmonic.  A lifelong fan of classic and choral music, June Lockhart considers her to be the group’s most vocal “groupie.”

I had the great pleasure of speaking with June Lockhart as she was preparing for The Los Angeles Lawyers Philharmonic yearly concert at The Wilshire United Methodist Church, which is to be held on November 15th.  A lovely lady with a plethora of stories, June and I spoke about music, movies, television and her amazing career.

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Coven’s 1969 album “Witchcraft Destroys Minds and Reaps Souls” became a rock n’ roll landmark by being the first album to contain Satanism and witchcraft in the lyrics, including a ten minute Satanic mass on the B side.

In a time when heavy metal did not yet exist and Goth culture wasn’t yet a thing, it is fair to say that Jinx Dawson, the mysterious and beautiful lead singer of the rock band Coven, was way ahead of her time.  Along with bass player Oz Osbourne, drummer Steve Ross, keyboardist Rick Durrett, and guitarist Chris Nielson, Coven chilled audiences to the bone when they appeared on the Chicago music scene in 1966 with their own dark brand of progressive rock.  While most bands of the era were singing songs about peace and love, Coven had different subjects to sing about – the Occult, black magic, demonology and Satan.  Although these would become popular musical subjects only a few years later, Coven were the pioneers of Satanic rock.  Touring with acts such as The Vanilla Fudge and The Yardbirds, Coven thrilled concert goers, while terrifying parents, the clergy and authorities, with an elaborate stage show featuring coffins, inverted crosses and a black mass.  When Coven released their debut album, Witchcraft Destroys Minds and Reaps Souls, in 1969 the album quickly became a cult favorite, although the material on the LP was unsuitable for radio play.  However, when the band was mentioned in a 1970 Esquire Magazine article about The Manson Family, Mercury Records, frightened of a backlash, took the album out of circulation and dropped Coven from their line-up.

Coven’s original line up included Oz Osbourne, Steve Ross, Rick Durrett, and their mysterious lead singer Jinx Dawson.

Now based in California, the group was struggling to survive when Jinx was given an unique opportunity to sing the title song to a little grass roots counter culture film called Billy Jack.  The song was One Tin Solider, and would climb the Billboard charts in 1971 while the unlikely little film became a cult hit.  Ironically, One Tin Soldier would become an anthem for peace and love – a far cry from Coven’s original dark image.  The band would regroup and record a toned down radio friendly self-titled album in 1972 in conjunction with One Tin Solider, but it got little attention.  In 1974 Coven gave it another shot and recorded Blood on the Snow with producer Shel Talmy, most famous for producing The Who’s TommyBlood on the Snow was a stronger release that melded the softer styles of their previous album while going back to their Occult roots.  However, by that time heavy metal music had finally become a driving force in the music industry and a little group from Britain called Black Sabbath had stolen the spotlight that Coven originated with some disturbing similarities too blatant to be coincidences.  Coven would disband not long afterwards, seemingly becoming a footnote in music history.

With a new album released in 2013, Jinx Dawson has regained her throne as the original Goth Queen.

However, in the 1990’s a new fascination with Coven would emerge out of the growing Goth culture as their music started to be rediscovered and deemed influential to the new crop of Goth and death metal bands emerging throughout the world.  In 2003 Jinx Dawson returned with a brand new solo album, Goth Queen: Out of the Vault, which brought her back onto the musical radar to regain her throne as the original Gothic Empress.  Having barely aged a day since she released Witchcraft Destroys Minds and Reaps Souls, Jinx Dawson has become the godmother of satanic rock music.

A mysterious and elusive woman, Jinx has only recently become assessable to fans via social media which has been a huge factor in continuing to grow her followers.  In recent years Jinx has designed and sold jewelry and clothing through her e-bay store and in 2013 released a second solo album called Jinx.  Throughout the years interviews with Jinx have been rare and in-between.  So when I reached out to Jinx via her Facebook account for an interview I was thrilled when she agreed to answer my questions if I submitted them through e-mail.  Not the way I normally like to conduct interviews, I realized that this audience with the Goth Queen was a rare and special one and I would be foolish to not agree to her terms.  The results were beyond my wildest expectations.  What I received in return for my questions was a series of honest and compelling answers outlining Jinx Dawson’s incredible journey through music, the occult and the ages.

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Winnipeg’s Sc Mira, featuring Sc and Tyler Wagar hit big in 2013 with their debut single “On My Own” and now are celebrating the Halloween season with a new free EP, “Candy Apples and Razor Blades” available on Sound Cloud.

Halloween is a special time for Winnipeg musical outfit Sc Mira.  It was at a warehouse party that lead vocalist Sc, dressed up as Pulp Fiction’s Mia Wallace (complete with a needle sticking through her heart) first met her musical collaborator Tyler Wagar, who was dressed up as “Planet Hollywood.”  For the next year the pair would collaborate on a number of songs, resulting in the formation of their band Sc Mira and their single On My Own.  A very personal piece, On My Own has gained momentum throughout the Canadian independent music scene, creating a national buzz for the band and their upcoming album due to be released in the spring of 2015.

This Halloween Sc Mira is paying tribute to their Halloween roots by releasing a free on-line three song EP called Candy Apples and Razor Blades, celebrating the season featuring covers from The Misfits and the soundtrack of the cult film Phantom of the Paradise.  Currently on a North American tour, I caught up with Sc Mira to talk about their current musical projects, and to bond over our mutual love for Phantom of the Paradise.

Sam Tweedle:  How long have you guys been performing together?

Tyler Wagar:  As a full band we’ve been performing together for about a year.  As a duo for a little bit longer than that.

Sc:  We started as Tyler and myself.  Tyler had collaborated with some songs that I had written and then we collaborated on the EP.  After we had done that we knew we needed a full band and we started looking for members.  The members have been constantly changing.  Just friends that have been helping us as long as possible, but if they have to move onto other projects, or whatever the case is, they have been.  But we seem to keep finding people that want to jump on board.  Now we have a permanent drummer.

Sam:  You guys are on a North American tour right now, right?

Tyler:  You could say that it’s North American.  We’ve done six Canadian dates so far.  We have three dates in Toronto, one in Kingston and then we are slipping down into the States.  Into the Midwest.

Sc:  Milwaukee, Madison…

Tyler:  Chicago….

Sc:  Green Bay, Minneapolis.

Sam:  I really think On My Own is one of the best singles that have crossed my desk in a long while.  I know that it has a very personal and deep meaning to you Sc.  Can you tell me a bit about it?

Sc:  I wrote the song a few years back after I broke my foot, again, for the nine hundredth time.  I had cancer a couple of years back and it has caused a lot of secondary physical issues.  Even when I moved on from the direct threat [of cancer] from my life, it just kept being a reoccurring problem and really it still is.  So the song is about being stuck in a body that is pretty useless in a body to me at times.

Sam:  How has the reception to the song been?  It seems to have put you on the radar.

Tyler: Yeah, it’s been great in regards to publicly.  People have been noticing it.  [It’s being played] on CBC.  Fans are liking it when it’s played live.

Sc:  It’s a little bit weird because the song is so personal and I never meant to share it.  People are asking about it and wanting to know what it’s about.  That’s what music is about.  Wanting to know where it comes from.

Sam:  When is the EP coming out?

Tyler:  We’re hoping for March or April.

Sam:  How long have you been working on it?

Sc:  it’s been wrapped for a while.  We fashioned it but didn’t even have a whole band.  We wanted to get ourselves out there before releasing it.

Sam:  So this is a gem you’re sitting on.   Now I read you have a Halloween project in the works.

Tyler:  Yeah.  We just had a Halloween EP released about a half an hour ago.  We recorded a couple of our favorite Halloween tunes.

Sc:  Yeah.  It’s free on-line as a Sound Cloud stream, but Exclaim! did an article on it.  We did it as a free release to get some content out there because we are sitting on the EP.  Its three songs.  Two are covers from the soundtrack of The Phantom of the Paradise.

Tyler:  Oh yeah.

Sam:  Phantom of the Paradise is one of my top three all-time favorite films!

Sc:  Nobody usually knows what it is.

Sam:  What songs did you do?

On their Halloween EP, “Candy Apples and Razor Blades,” Sc Mira covers Paul William’s “Life at Last” and “Somebody Super From You” from the cult film “Phantom of the Paradise.”

Sc:  We did Life at Last and Somebody Super Like You because the themes are very Halloweeny.  The last song we did is Halloween by the Misfits.

Sam:  Now it’s Winnipeg that has that strange Phantom of the Paradise cult following, right?

Tyler:  That’s defiantly Winnipeg.

Sam:  Yeah – that film was a hit in Winnipeg and nobody else in the world.

Sc:  Yeah.  I grew up watching Phantom of the Paradise.  I’ve seen it so many times.  My Dad would show it to us and my siblings.  I guess Tyler watched it as a kid too.

Tyler.  Yeah.  It was also my Dad’s favorite musical film.

Sc:  So it just seemed natural because Phantom of the Paradise is common ground for both of us.  We both already knew the songs.  I listen to the record year round.

Sam:  So do I.  I have it on my computer in my office.  It’s one of my all-time favorite film soundtracks.

Tyler:  When we were working on the EP in Montreal last year we ended up in a vintage store and ended up finding the record just lying around.

Sc:  I had been looking for that record for a long time.  We found it for three dollars in some shop that we went into.  We both went in and thought I might find something worth taking home and I found it at the very back of the stack.

Sam:  So beyond the Halloween project and the upcoming EP, where do you guys plan on going?  Are you working on anything else?

Tyler:  Well over the winter, after the tour and before the release, we’re going to work on more stuff.  We’re going to do some in-house demos.

Sam:  I heard that part of the strength of the Winnipeg music scene is that all you can do in the winter is write songs and make albums.

Tyler:  Either that, or skate outside at minus forty.

Sc:  I can’t skate.  I really have nothing to do but write music.

To get your own copy of Sc Mira’s Halloween EP Candy Apples and Razor Blades, as well as a downloadable version of Own My Own, visit https://soundcloud.com/pipeandhat.  This is just the beginning for this charming duo.  We’ll be looking towards Winnipeg to see what happens next.

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George Chakiris in the role of Bernardo in “West Side Story.”

When the film version West Side Story opened in movie theaters in 1961, it opened the audience up to a world of youth culture as never before seen.  Stories and films about juvenile delinquents were already common place, but West Side Story brought together the world of street gangs, racism and the crumbing American dream to the audience through dance, song, angst, romance and tragedy.  Although presented in a new and daring way, the story line was as old as Shakespeare himself, and the power of the film and its themes continue to captivate new audiences generation after generation.  The film, rightfully, won ten Oscars and made the majority of its young unknown stars household names.  One of those young stars was George Chakiris.

George Chakiris with his Best Supporting Actor Academy Award in 1961.

Starting in Hollywood as a dancer, George Chakiris could be seen performing in the chorus of films such as White Christmas, Brigadoon, There’s No Business Like Show Business and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.  A dark haired young man with intense hawk like good looks, George was soon recruited to perform in the London stage version of the Broadway sensation West Side Story in the role of the streetwise leader of the Jets, Riff.  But when he was asked to audition for the film version, he changed sides where he would forever be remembered by film audiences as Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks.  Performing opposite of Natalie Wood in the role of his naïve kid sister Maria, and Rita Moreno as his sensuous lover Anita, George Chakiris lit up the screen with a combination of sensuality and danger as he loved, fought, danced and died on the streets of New York City.  His performance would win him the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, and turn him into a screen idol. With a lifetime performing on film, television and stage, as well as recording half a dozen LP’s, George Chakiris has been a perennial favorite of film fans worldwide.  However, in recent years he has slowed down his acting work and has focused on a new venture creating a line of sterling silver jewelry.  A talented craftsman, Chakiris’ jewelry can be purchased on-line through a major Japanese distributor.  However, it doesn’t stop him from still getting the occasional nod from the Hollywood community who have the memory of his performance of West Side Story etched in their memories forever.

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 WILL BE ATTENDING ONTARIO’S BEST SMALL SIZED POP CULTURE CONVENTION!  GET IN YOUR CAR AND MAKE THE TRIP TO HAMILTON.  YOU WON’T BE DISJOINTEDNESS.  NO LINES, NO OUTRAGEOUS PRICES, NO CRUSHING CROWDS.  JUST A LOT OF FUN, THE WAY THAT COMIC CONVENTIONS SHOULD BE!  HAMILTON COMIC CON WAS PCA’S FAVORITE COMIC CON OF 2013.  WE’RE LOOKING FORWARD TO RETURNING ON OCTOBER 4TH!

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